By Adam Lucas
1. It’s just almost impossible to describe the number of opportunities and missed opportunities for Carolina in that game. In the second four-overtime game in UNC history (the other was a 1976 win over Tulane), Alabama won a 103-101 decision. It’s a shame that such an historic game will largely be remembered for perhaps the only overturned goaltending call in program history.
2. Nate Oats called a timeout on Alabama’s final possession of the second half and had a chance to set up a game-winning shot. It looked like the Tide liked the matchup of Jahvon Quinerly agianst Caleb Lovebut a ball screen allowed a UNC switch, leaving Leaky Black–a better defender and exactly who UNC would have wanted defending the potential winning shot–on Quinerly. Black contested the final shot by Quinerly and the game went into overtime.
3. Carolina than had a similar chance to win the game at the end of overtime, isolating Caleb Love to try to get the game-winner. Love, no stranger to big shots, was able to shake free and get some space, but missed a three-point attempt with a couple seconds remaining. You could see the legs starting to go for both teams in the third overtime, as jumpers started falling short and players started making the play with the least resistance rather than the tougher play (see, for example, three of Carolina’s last four possessions in that third extra session, and most of Alabama’s offense in the fourth overtime).
4. That was the best game of Puff Johnson’s Carolina career, even though his stats weren’t overwhelming. Johnson had ten points and five rebounds in an incredible 48 minutes of playing time, but the Tar Heels simply wouldn’t have won the game without him. He was involved in almost every loose ball, played good defense, and made the right choices on almost every possession. Hubert Davis used Johnson exclusively down the stretch. It paid off when Johnson threw himself on a loose ball at midcourt with 31.6 seconds left in overtime, securing possession after it looked like Alabama was going to grab an offensive rebound. That’s exactly the type of play Davis has been begging his team for in the first month of the season. Johnson also had an offensive rebound and bucket in the second overtime.
5. Johnson and By Marco Dunn were tremendous off the Carolina bench. Both looked completely at home in what was a high-level top-25 game, to that point Hubert Davis extended their rotations and eventually played them a combined 63 minutes. But also give credit to Pete Nancewho spent most of the second half on the bench, but then was called into action in relief of Armando Bacot and had two huge defensive stops at the end of the second overtime. He then threw a beautiful pass to open the third overtime, got his first field goal of the game in that same period, and had another key defensive stop with under two minutes to play. Hubert Davis will use this game for years as an example of being ready whenever your name is called. Included in that group: Seth Trimblewho sat for over an hour, was put in the game with 9.3 seconds left for defense in a one-point game, and made a diving play to create a turnover.
6. He scored 34 points, but Carolina needs Love to be more efficient. The junior guard took a whopping 36 field goal attempts on Sunday, making 13. Love’s aggressiveness bit the Heels in double OT when he was whistled for a charge on a play when it looked like the defender was in the circle. But here’s the other thing about Love: it competes. He played an amazing 57 minutes. FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES, and still had the legs to hit a couple of free throws in the fourth overtime. RJ Davis was a similar situation, as he played 51 minutes and went 8-for-24 from the field.
7. Alabama came into the game in the top 25 in the country in scoring from the free throw line. But Carolina did a reasonably good job of defending without fouling (helped by Bama catching uncharacteristic fire from the three-point line) in what was a game with some curious whistles from a crew that didn’t live up to the caliber of the game, and the Tide scored just 13 points from the line in essentially three halves.
8. Leaky Black is likely going to be sore tomorrow after rolling his ankle early in overtime, but then toughing it out and coming back–to the great amusement of Oats (who didn’t make many friends in Chapel Hill on a couple different occasions in a very intense game that both sides wanted very badly), who made quite a production out of believing Black (who shot 86.8 percent from the line last season) was faking an injury to not have to attempt free throws–a couple minutes later. Black has dealt with ankle injuries throughout his Carolina career and played an incredible 54 minutes. Basically, all the numbers in this game were incredible.
9. His numbers weren’t eye-popping, but Armando Bacot was a warrior inside in a physical game and finished with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. The Tar Heels ran a set for Bacot on the very first play of the game and appeared much more conscious of their big man offensively. With Pete Nance hampered by foul problems, Bacot shouldered most of the interior load for Carolina, and the Heels outscored the Tide 54-40 in the paint. Bacot–whose afternoon was eventually ended by what appeared to be a gimpy ankle–also competed defensively, including a key one-on-one stop against Alabama top offensive threat Brandon Miller with under three minutes to play when Nate Oats tried to isolate Miller on the Tar Heel big man. The Tar Heels wish they could have had Bacot in that fourth overtime, when Charles Bediako got loose for a couple game-turning hoops.
10. A couple sneakily big sequences in what was a tight game. In the first half, with the Tar Heels deep into the bench, they were down seven with 90 seconds left and struggling on offense. The ball ended up with Caleb Love, who had to force a guarded three-pointer while pinned against the sideline. But it banked in, and Carolina trailed by just three at the half. In the second half, the Heels were again down seven when Alabama missed a wide open three-pointer from the corner. Then, after a Tar Heel miss, the Tide stepped on the baseline while grabbing a defensive rebound. Armando Bacot proceeded to convert a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays to trim the deficit to one. The late game plays usually get most of the attention, but those two sequences were a big part of the Tar Heels staying in the game.
11. With Alabama hitting the offensive glass hard, Carolina was able to ignite a running attack. The Tide entered the game as the nation’s second leading team in offensive rebound percentage, but the Heels countered by reeling off 11 fast break points in the first 20 minutes, nearly a third of their total offensive output in the first half. Carolina finished with 24 fast break points compared to 15 for Bama.
12. Carolina trailed by just three at half after a fascinating final 3:30 of the first half in which Hubert Davis went deep into his bench. With Pete Nance (3 fouls), RJ Davis (2) and Armando Bacot (2) in foul trouble, the Heels turned to the second unit. The initial grouping was Caleb Love, Justin McCoy, By Marco Dunn, Puff Johnson and Leaky Black. When McKoy failed to grab a couple of rebounds, he was replaced by Dontrez Styles. That group kept the Tar Heels even and prevented any big Tide runs, keeping the Heels close going into the second half.
13. Those reserves included Will Shaver for a brief stretch, who contributed his first Tar Heel points by hitting a pair of free throws.
14. Carolina likely caught a matchup break when Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney left the game after a scary looking moment when he fell hard on his tailbone after an attempted dunk. Clowney, a freshman, had already given the Tar Heels some issues with his versatility in the game’s opening three minutes and was the team’s best offensive rebounder; those were the only three minutes he played in the game.
15. A matchup like that one deserved a better crowd. With a 12:30 pm local start time in the ancient Veterans Memorial Coliseum and most of Tuscaloosa at home for the Iron Bowl, the attendees were essentially limited to families of players and West Coast Tar Heel fans. The environment did not match the intensity of the game.
16. As part of a prearranged travel schedule, the Tar Heels will spend Sunday night in Portland. Rather than going all the way home and then coming halfway back across the country, they’ll travel to Bloomington tomorrow for Wednesday night’s game at Indiana. The other complicating factor: exams at Carolina begin later this week and the players are trying to prepare for the end of the semester, so they’re trying to maximize study time. That’s difficult to do during one of the toughest stretches of the season. The chance to go back to the hotel and rest after a quadruple-overtime game rather than immediately boarding a plane is a big luxury.